Keycon 34: Sunday

I agreed to three hours of programming on Sunday, and I ended up doing four. That’s kind of nuts, but it was actually okay. All of the rooms were within one floor of each other, so walking time was minimal. I had two back-to-back sessions, then a one-hour lunch break, then two more back-to-back sessions, and that took us to the closing ceremonies.

First up was an hour of readings. I joined Sherry Peters and Melinda Friesen for this, to try and improve the audience numbers. To be honest, it didn’t really work. Still, our tiny audience was nice, and there were questions. I read the first scene from Avians, Sherry read from Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, (the first of her series) and Melinda read a suspenseful scene from Subversion, the sequel to Enslavement. We kept our readings short, in the five to seven minute range.

Right after that was a panel on Critique Group Survival with Lindsay and Daria. I was grafted onto this panel late in the game because the convention planners didn’t want to make my Sunday so hectic. But when Lindsay asked me, I jumped at the chance. Their critique group made a huge difference to my novel opening, and quite likely helped make it good enough to get a publishing contract. See this older post for more. So I talked about that, and we urged the writers present to seek out critique groups. Take your pages. Leave your ego at home. The harshest criticism will do the most good.  Try to find a group with at least some members in the same genre.

Lunch, and the three of us joined a group of other writers in the hotel’s restaurant: Gerald Brandt, Craig Russell, Sherry Peters, Melinda Friesen. Craig entertained us all with a devious thought experiment about the desirability of intelligence and honesty, and it gave me a chance to unwind for a bit.

Next up was Lindsay’s panel on Aviation & Airships. She had everyone fill out a five-question quiz. Not exactly True or False, the choices were more like Plausible and Improbable, or something similar. The idea was to look at some tropes and misconceptions, like, “If a pistol bullet is fired through the skin of an airliner at altitude, there will be an explosive decompression.” While the audience was scribbling, we talked about some aviation fiction scenes that missed the mark. Lindsay’s questions were devious enough that no-one got all five right, at least not by our definition. Two guys tied with four out of five, and we settled it with a run-off question. In the end, I gave both of them signed copies of Avians. I don’t think my book was the draw here. I think it was the chance to participate and compete that drew people to this panel. Lindsay gets all the credit on this one – I was dubious, but I now count this a lesson learned. I’m already scheming to do something a bit similar at my next convention.

Last was How Do Writers Read? This panel featured Author Guest of Honour Kelley Armstrong, DAW author Gerald Brandt, and Den Valdron, who is with Five Rivers, same as me. I originally planned to nod politely while the better-known authors did most of the talking. However, for personal reasons, Gerald asked to step out of the moderator role, and I was asked to fill in. Not quite at the last minute; I had four hours to prepare. But during those four hours, I had three hours of panels. The show must go on. I basically winged it from the program description. Luckily, all the panelists were in fine form, and it was a fun panel.

As you can see, I had no time on Sunday to attend anyone else’s stuff. Said some quick goodbyes in the Dealer Room, and then I had to run, because we had a drive home ahead of us, and a deadline to retrieve our dog from the kennel.

This was the most involvement I’ve had in any con, and it could have been grueling, especially with a schedule that put so much on one day. It could have been, but it wasn’t: I had a really good time at Keycon this year.

 

Prose & Cons: My Keycon Schedule

In May, I’ll be in Winnipeg for Keycon. The organizers consider me a published author, which is nice of them since Keycon 34 runs from May 19th to 21st, and Avians won’t actually be released until August 1st. Blatant plug: Avians is available for pre-order now at Five RiversKobo, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

I get to do stuff.

FRIDAY

On Friday evening, at 8:00PM, I’m attempting Miyazaki and Flight with Timothy Gwyn: Flight has fascinated humankind for centuries. Join our panelists as they discuss anime master Hayao Miyazaki’s use of flight in his films, and how they’ve inspired writers and fans alike.

Hayao Miyazuki’s anime works, especially his Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, have been a big influence on my fiction. He portrayed some lovely and fantastic flying machines: airships, multi-wing flying fortresses, jet powered gliders, and more. Not only that, he made the machines and their flight characteristics integral to his plots. The other panelists are still TBA.

SATURDAY

Saturday, I have it easy.

From 11:00AM to 12:00 noon, I present Alternative Aviation in Science Fiction with Timothy Gwyn: From Autogyros to Zeppelins: a catalogue of unusual aircraft past, present and future. A look at the strengths and weaknesses of each, plus how much technology is needed to build them, and how well they fit into different sub-genres of SF. Examples from noteworthy fiction, and how they played a role in plot or worldbuilding. Do you need air transportation in the age of steam, or on an alien world? Alternative aviation may hold the answers you’re looking for. Remember: getting there is half the fun!

I did this slideshow at When Words Collide last year, with Lindsay Kitson’s help. She has offered to run the projector and help again. Wait, did she say help or was it heckle?

After that, I’m free to roam around and take in friend’s panels. Such as Lindsay’s, and also Daria Patrie’s. I’m looking forward to How to Edit Your Own Work, and Why You Need an Editor, with Lindsay Kitson, J. Boone Dryden, Diane Walton and Daria Patrie, Point of View, with Gerald Brandt, Melinda Friesen, Lindsay Kitson, and Daria Patrie, Women in Speculative Fiction with Kelley Armstrong, Tamsen McDonough, Lindsay Kitson, and Van Kunder, and Critique Group Survival with Lindsay Kitson and Daria Patrie.  I’m in their critique group, and it’s been invaluable.

SUNDAY

Sunday, I’m busier.

From 11:00AM  to 12:00 noon, I’m doing the Book Reading with Timothy Gwyn, Sherry Peters and Melinda Friesen: Timothy Gwyn reads from Avians, Sherry Peters reads from Mabel the Mafioso Dwarf, and Melinda Friesen reads from Subversion. A question and answer session follows the readings. Stay until the end to receive a free ticket for a chance to win $40.00 in Dealers Room Dollars. One ticket, per person, per Reading Session. Draw to be held Sunday at noon.

Sherry and I go back several years, and I’m looking forward to meeting Melinda.

From 2:00PM to 3:00PM it’s Aviation and Believable Airships and Aircraft in Science Fiction with Timothy Gwyn and Lindsay Kitson: An interactive session with two pilots who are also writers. Lindsay Kitson and Timothy Gwyn tackle the credible and incredible in aviation fact and fiction. Learn how getting aviation right can enhance your story. Some pointers on how to keep it real with aircraft and airship scenes that actually work.

Lindsay and I both cringe at some of the things we see written about aircraft. In exchange for putting up with our grousing, audience members brave enough to take a quiz will have a chance to win one signed and dated author’s copy of Avians. Remember, that’s a pre-release first edition.

I might give away a second copy at one of my other slots. It’ll be a surprise.

From 3:00PM to 4:00PM, I have How Do Writers Read Books? With Kelley Armstrong, Gerald Brandt, Timothy Gwyn and Den Valdron: Can a writer read a book for pure enjoyment without critiquing the writing? Can genre writers read books within their own field without being overly influenced by those books? What books do writers read? What books do writers recommend aspiring writers to read?

This will be a nice way to finish up. Gerald Brandt helped me write queries and gave me great advice on a word-count problem. I’ve seen Kelley Armstrong at cons, but never really spoken to her, despite us having a name in common. Like me, Den Valdron is with Five Rivers Publishing, and I was at the launch of his The Mermaid’s Tale at When Words Collide in Calgary last summer.

Come see me and my friends at Keycon. I’m excited about it.

Avians – Cover Reveal

Can’t resist reblogging this!

Lindsay Kitson - Author and Pilot

You might recall I mentioned one of the members of my critique group was getting published, and I promised to post more when there were further developments. Well it’s getting closer to his publication date, and he’s got a cover reveal post on his blog right here. 

I read this in it’s infancy a few years ago, and while it needed work at that point – every novel does at that stage – I whipped through it as fast as I used to read authors like Lloyd Alexander and Monica Hughes. Actually, I think Monica Hughes would be the author I’d compare him to – YA, but with serious themes and without the preoccupation with romance that a lot of YA fiction with female focal point characters seems to feature these days.

And I can’t say 100% for sure that I didn’t read it that fast because it revolved around…

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Giving Back

Before I finished my first novel, I would have been intimidated by something like Calgary’s colossal When Words Collide. I started by attending a tiny local event: Word on the Water was a Kenora literary festival that ran for two or three years, and it put me in touch with editors and published authors for the first time. I got my first blue-pencil there, and took one of my first workshops. I met Robert Sawyer there, and a host of Winnipeg and Thunder Bay authors, and Samantha Beiko, who became my freelance editor.

So I have a soft spot for little conventions that make an effort to reach out to writers on their home turf.

Winter Wheat is a new literary festival being held in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba on Saturday, December 10th at the public library. I’ll be joining a number of friends there, and we’ll have panels on Story Genesis, Editing and Graphic Novels, and we’ll do some readings, too.

I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d be joining friends; I just received the draft version of the schedule, and I know almost all of the presenters. Leia Getty is the home-town organizer; we first met at the C4 LitFest, an intimate Winnipeg event that spun off from Central Canada Comic-Con. Same goes for her old friend R.J. Hore. I have books by both of them on my shelf. I think I first met Holly Geely at KeyCon, a larger Winnipeg convention where we sat in the same audiences a lot. Lindsay Kitson is a fellow aviator and SF author- I’m in her critique group now. Scott B. Henderson goes all the way back to Word on the Water, where I bought a copy of 7 Generations.

I get to sit on the Editing panel because I’ve worked with Freelance, Small Press and Magazine editors. Just to be on the safe side, I dug out my notes from the Working With an Editor workshop that Dr. Robert Runté gave at When Words Collide this summer. He’s Senior Editor at Five Rivers Publishing, and my editor for Avians. My entire notes on the two-hour talk consist of one notebook page of scrawled keywords. I’m more of a listener than a note-taker. So: winging it.

I’m also on the Story Genesis panel. Basically, this will be about developing ideas into stories, I think. I plan to talk about harnessing your imagination and combining ideas, mumble about building the right point of view character and world for the story, and then stare at the ceiling and make stuff up.

I’ll be doing a reading from Avians. Which will feel weird, because I’m hard at work on the sequel Bandits now.

I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be fun. Me dispensing wisdom… who’da thunk?

 

 

 

Summer Travels 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about our travels. This summer, we’re taking to the road. Dingbat, our beloved(?) GPS will be joining us for a road trip to Portland, OR. But we’re starting with a flight.

First stop: Calgary, Alberta for When Words Collide. My publishers, Five Rivers, will be launching two books at this convention.

5R Poster 2016

And lookit! Way down at the bottom of the poster, it not only says I’m doing a reading from Avians, it nails down the release date in print.

Immediately before the Five Rivers Salon, I’ll be doing my presentation on Alternative Aviation in SF, and I’ve been stressing a little over how to juggle my notes (one handed on an e-reader?) and the slide show (touch screen tablet?). Good news! Lindsay Kitson, critique partner and fellow pilot, has said not only will she be in attendance, she’s willing to help with setting up and running the projector for me. That’ll be a huge help.

There’s far more to the con than just those two things. There are a slew of panels and presentations I’m eager to attend; my schedule often has two or three highlighted at the same time. I’ll blog those as I go.

After that hectic weekend, we’re hopping over to Kelowna for some family time with the western part of Caroline’s clan.

From there, we’re sticking Dingbat in rental car and heading down into Washington and Oregon. We’d like to see the Museum of Flight in Seattle, then I have novel research to do at Mount Saint Helens, because it is a rare example of a stratovolcano with lava tubes, and you can hike through them. Then Portland, OR for some seafood dinners and as a base of exploration for some local wineries before heading back to Kelowna, Winnipeg and home.

Then just a week or two later, we’ll take an extended September weekend to go to Can*Con in Ottawa. That’s one of my favourite cons, and this’ll be my third visit. It looks as if I might get to moderate a panel there, which will be a great chance to meet authors and readers of SF. More later, as details get firmed up.

It’s going to be a great summer!

NaNoWriMo

That’s National Novel Writing Month, if you didn’t know. It’s a huge affair, with thousands of writers pledging to write a 50,000 word first draft in 30 days. This year, I’m one.

For a while now, I’ve been holding off on writing the sequel to my novel, Avians of Celadon. Avians is unsold, and it seemed to me that any agent or publisher that took an interest in it would likely want me to change stuff. Hey, it’s my first novel- I’m sure there’s ample room to improve it. I let this get in the way of the sequel. If I had to make major changes to Avians, those changes would have to follow through in Bandits of Celadon (yes, I’m going alphabetical. Sorry, Sue Grafton. By the time I get to Zombies of Celadon, I’ll be either stinking rich or heavily medicated.) The idea of revising two books seemed daunting.

Aanywaay. No more procrastination. I’m actively outlining. I’ve laid out the bones of the plot, I know how it will begin and end, and I’m crafting scenes in my head. I go for long walks and use the voice recorder on my smartphone to make sure I don’t forget my best ideas. I have half a deck of file cards tacked to my Scrivener board.

Can I really do it? On the plus side, I have ample time to write. On the minus side, I’m a slow writer. I can type like the wind, but I agonize over every sentence. NaNoWriMo may be just what I need to think less and pound the keyboard more. We will see.

I’m fortunate to have found an in-person critique group. Lindsay Kitson, a self-described dieselpunk author and fellow writer of aviation-themed SF brought one of her group’s members to my recent reading at the Winnipeg Chi-Series. A bunch of us went for food and drink following the readings, and soon afterwards, I was offered a chance to attend a group meeting in Winnipeg. Best of all, at least two of the five are also NanoWri-ming, and have buddied me. That means I will get encouragement. Or nagging. I will probably need both. By the way, the group gets some of the credit for my new ambition. They collectively urged me to write and let the chips fall where they may. Massive revisions? Suck it up- it’s part of the process.

Speaking of the Chi-Series reading, one of the other readers that evening was Kate Heartfield, and I see on her Twitter feed that she’ll be moderating a couple of panels at Can-Con in Ottawa. I’m stunned by how many people I will know there this time around- last year I knew only one before the con began. I’m looking forward to seeing chair (and author) Derek Künsken, Can-Con afficionado (and author) Brandon Crilly, publishers (and authors) Hayden Trenholm, Gabrielle Harbowy, and Sandra Kasturi, and authors Fanny Darling and Rob Sawyer, to name a few.

I won’t be doing a lot of pitching this year, because I have already pitched and/or submitted to most of the relevant parties. I will not be getting drunk and whining “But why?” to the publishers that declined. Two reasons: One: they might tell me the truth. Two: I plan to get rejected by everyone before I quit, and I’d like to have some friends left over!

KeyCon Friday

Okay, easiest registration ever. Events don’t kick off until seven, so I went and registered at five. I was in and out of the Radisson so fast, the parking was free! Then I went for dinner at Bonfire Bistro and came back in plenty of time for Chadwick Ginther‘s reading.

Lindsay Kitson found me while I was waiting, and we talked books for a bit. I just read her excellent dieselpunk Redwing, and she read my Avians of Celadon. She offered substantive input on how to make my protagonist’s climax and resolution fit better with the opening, and how to make the sub-plots unite to create a more gripping narrative. In return, I told her that where the rebels hide their stolen warplanes should be a barn rather than a warehouse. Hey, I do what I can.

Chadwick’s reading was well attended. He gave us a teaser of his third novel, Too Far Gone, which follows Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues to continue the story of blue-collar Ted, who has managed to make Norse gods hate him. He also read us parts of a short story about steampunk werewolves(!) that he wrote for an anthology.

After the reading, I hung around with a small group for a bit. Gerald Brandt was there. He’ll be joining Lindsay on the Your Query Package panel first thing tomorrow. That’s very relevant for me right now- my short story querying is going okay, but my novel doesn’t seem to be attracting much interest. However, I’m conflicted. If I show up promptly for that panel, I might miss out on signing up for some of the best Blue-Pencil sessions. Gerald will be doing some of those himself, and he offered to critique a query letter for me rather than a piece of fiction. That could be invaluable. Sherry Peters, author of Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, was also there. She’s a regular participant at KeyCon. When she asked how it was going with me, I was able to say I had just made my first short story sale. Turns out she knows Scott Barnes, the publisher who bought my story for NewMyths.com. See? It’s a small world. Contacts help, and that’s one good reason I go to conventions. And to learn stuff about writing. That’s cool. But mostly to hang with peeps who grok SF. That’s like coming home.